A Sussex County vet is facing legal action from a former colleague for allegedly attacking co-workers and using his power to harass, threaten and coerce them into sex.
Erica Power, a veterinary nurse from Wantage, says she fell victim to the “lustful” behavior of Dr O. Steven Brasch who became obsessive, the veteran vet texting his male friend with threats, tracking his movements and hiring a private investigator. Brasch, she says, then fired her and would only allow her to return if she agreed to engage in regular sexual acts with him.
Power recently filed a lawsuit against Brasch and his company, Wantage-based Skylands Veterinary Services, in the state’s Superior Court, seeking unspecified emotional and compensatory damages.
“Skylands has a top-down culture plagued by predatory harassment in return perpetuated by its leader, Dr. Brasch,” Power says in the lawsuit.
Power is also seeking money owed to her after Brasch violated an employment contract that established her as a partial owner of Skylands with Brasch and his wife. The agreement, written in ink and submitted to the court, gave Power 21% of the fees received by Skylands customers along with bonus and other compensation.
But Brasch, when reached by phone last week, said the lawsuit was frivolous and it was an effort by Power to manipulate and extort him.
The lawsuit, he said, is about loans he made to Power in 2018 to buy a house at Wantage: a $ 10,000 signing cash loan and a personal check for $ 50,000.
Power signed a promissory note but has not yet returned the money, Brasch said, and when he sent her a certified letter asking for the money, she threatened “that all kinds of crazy things are going to happen. “.
Power, who says he has more than 20 years of experience as a registered nurse, first met Brasch in 2008 at the Newton Veterinary Hospital, where the two worked.
Brasch had a “reputation” in the animal hospital for making sexual advances, but she found him harmless at first, Power says in the costume.
She says that in 2013, she accepted an offer from Brasch to work with him at Skylands, a 24/7 mobile veterinary unit that specializes in treating large animals such as horses, cows and sheep.
Their working relationship turned sexual, and in February 2018, Power says, Brasch began to focus on one of her male friends. He texted the man to keep his distance from Power and would report to his home when he knew Power was visiting to “make sure she was safe,” the lawsuit says.
Brasch last week declined to say whether he was in a relationship with Power, but said he and Power were “good friends”. He shared his concerns over Power’s visit with the man, who he said was a US Army veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“She got really hostile about it. It caused a lot of arguing,” Brasch said.
But Power says it was Brasch’s obsession, who believed she was sleeping with the man. He allegedly threatened her: “If you want your job at Skylands … a piece of [explicit] wouldn’t be worth risking all you’ve got. “
Fearing that he would lose his job, Power agreed to stop talking to the man and checked his phone records with Brasch, who asked to see them.
In the summer of 2018, Brasch agreed to lend Power and her then-husband money to buy a new home. Power says she sometimes drove an hour from her home in Rockaway to make house calls in Sussex County.
Everything was fine until the end of 2018, says Power.
Brasch’s behavior would have “become gloomy again” when she reconnected with her male friend for a drink. Brasch called the man and reported to the house where the man was staying, Power said. Several months later, Brasch brought a new woman to the workplace and posted that she was having sex with him, Power claims.
Power resigned in August 2019, but Brasch made several attempts to bring her back, pleading for the closure and resumption of their sexual relationship, she says. She agreed to return to work with him after he promised her a generous salary and a stake in Skylands. He agreed, under a signed contract, to reduce the amount she owed him to $ 40,000. He also agreed to keep their relationship strictly professional.
But again, she says, Brasch started to make her uncomfortable and she started to believe Brasch was following her or had placed a GPS tracker on her car. Brasch also hired private investigators to track both Power and his male friend, according to the lawsuit.
Brasch was reportedly fired from Newton Animal Hospital in April 2020 after Power said he showed an inappropriate photo to a co-worker. Brasch, in return, blamed Power for her dismissal and fired her from Skylands, according to Power.
In June and July 2020, Brasch reportedly attempted to bring Power back to work with a “six-figure” salary while asking if she could continue their sexual relationship.
Power says she ignored his requests. Several weeks later, Brasch sent him a formal notice of $ 50,000.
Brasch, however, said Power invited her to her home in June 2020 to speak while her husband was away from home. In text messages Brasch provided to the New Jersey Herald, Power allegedly admitted that she owed him money and asked to meet with him.
“If I’m such a harassing person, then why is she inviting me to her house alone to discuss the mortgage?” said Brasch. “Obviously it turned into extortion.”
Brasch said he agreed to meet her, but she never paid him the money.
Skylands Veterinary Services mobile unit provides 24/7 veterinary care in northern Jersey, Pennsylvania and southern New York.
Lori Comstock can be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH or by phone: 973-383-1194.